There’s nothing like the adrenalin rush of a near miss to make even a heathen like me say her prayers. And there’s nothing like a tragedy to make me vow, for the umpteenth time, to savor every moment and not to sweat the small stuff. I had a horrible reminder of this the other day.
It started in Las Vegas. We had come to the desert in search of sun and an easy way to stretch out the last few remaining days of our summer before Koss went back to school. It was 110 degrees in the shade but refreshingly cool in our hotel’s lazy river, where we spent most of our time nursing adult beverages ($5 bottles of Aquafina for Koss) and floating in endless circles. For a couple of blissful days our biggest cares in the world were remembering to reapply sunscreen and trying not to bump into the clumps of rafts that would form from time to time in the pool.
As the sun rose on the last day of our vacation I had that bittersweet feeling that endings always bring. I wasn’t ready for the carefree days of summer to end but was resigned and even starting to look forward to seeing all of my “school friends” I had missed over the last couple of months.
One more day at the pool and then we’d head back to real life.
Zak answered his phone and his mother told him there had been a terrible accident at home in Santa Barbara. An out of control big rig truck had careened into our old house, killing three of the occupants, including a seven year old kid.
We lived in that place for almost ten years-the first ten years of Koss’s life. My heart was pounding as I pictured the truck slamming into the porch where we had stored his stroller, drawn chalk paintings and played hopscotch. I still can’t believe that the bright sunny yellow living room and the sky blue child’s bedrooms I carefully sponge painted were transformed into a place of unspeakable death and destruction.
As I write this, the adrenalin kicks in once again. That could easily have been us. In fact, it would have been us if our landlord hadn’t told us he planned to demolish the building about a year and a half ago.
I take back every evil epithet I threw in his direction when I struggled to find us a new place to live over the Christmas holidays. If he hadn’t kicked us out we would probably still be living there. And if we were still living there we would almost certainly have been asleep when the truck crashed into the house. We’d be dead instead of that poor other family.
I said a small prayer of gratitude for our first landlords (and friends) who sold the building to the guy who forced us out and an even bigger prayer for the family that replaced us, hoping they were at least asleep and truly didn’t know what hit them.
That poor sweet little boy. I know his face will be haunting me for a long, long time.
Within an hour of the accident the phone calls, emails and text messages started pouring in from far-flung friends, some of whom weren’t sure whether or not we still lived there. Even some acquaintances that had never been to our house took the time to call and make sure we were okay.
We weren’t okay, but we sure were lucky. The whole thing was so surreal. It was nice to know there were so many people who cared about us. I wondered if I would have made the effort to reach out if I were in their shoes, and vowed that if something like that ever hit the news again I wouldn’t hesitate to express my concern.
“When something tragic like this happens, the only thing you can really do is hug your loved ones close and treasure every moment you have with them,” said a text from a friend in the Bay Area who had heard the news. “What a perfect reminder for all of us to savor every moment and not to sweat the small stuff.”
Good advice. I think I’ll take it.